Last week, Mashable reported that on the body of the email. There is no notification in the top right corner that says “Ad” and users cannot click on the ad to see more information about who paid for it.
“Dude what the fuck is this? I can’t click on it, there’s no account name, there’s no username, I’m screaming, what the hell it’s not even an ad,” one user said. tweeted. But Twitter’s new advertising interface may be more than just annoying: it may be illegal.
Under Section 5(a) of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Act, companies are prohibited from using deceptive advertising practices, which means consumers must know that ads are, well, ads. For social platforms, this means that any native advertising or advertising designed to look like content on the platform must be clearly labeled.
“We really have no doubt that the lack of disclosure of X here misleads consumers,” says Sarah Kay Wiley, director of policy and partnerships at Check My Ads, an advertising industry watchdog group. “Consumers simply are not able to differentiate what is content and what is not paid content. Even I have been fooled and I work in this space.”
X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
X has two feeds, a follow feed that is meant to show users content from accounts they follow and a feed for you that includes algorithmically recommended content from across the platform. Wiley says she’s seen examples of this unlabeled advertising content on both feeds. What’s more confusing is the fact that some other content is still labeled as ads. “It’s really egregious because some ads are still marked as ads,” Wiley says. “It really provides opportunities for fraudulent sellers to reach consumers.”
An FTC attorney from the agency’s advertising practices division, who spoke to WIRED on condition of anonymity, says the agency encourages platforms to use a consistent format for advertising disclosures to avoid confusing customers.
And Wiley says that if advertisers think that X is doing the work of labeling their content when it’s not, they could also face compliance issues for not adequately disclosing that their posts are ads. “Advertisers themselves are also victims,” she says.